After 113 Years


EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is a factual article, and although it is not along the line of material ordinarily printed in this magazine, it is an unusual account of the macabre and certainly deserves publication most whole-heartedly. Mr. Richardson, the author, is well known among fan and professional circles as well. He has one of the largest, if not the largest, collection of science fiction and fantasy magazines and books in the world, and has contributed articles to a number of the professional magazines. On the side, or rather as a career, Mr. Richardson is the pastor of the Fort Mitchell Baptist Church in Covington, Kentucky, and quite active with the young people group there.

ON OCTOBER 9, 1814 the funeral services for Robert Henderson took place in the pioneer river settlement of Henderson, Kentucky. It was an important occasion because Robert Henderson was the founder of the little village that took his name; and farmers, hunters, trappers, and Indian scouts from miles around came in to the historic services. They came to pay tribute to the little man who had helped push civilization westward. But now we come to the unusual part of this story, Robert Henderson would not stay buried.

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Back in 1927, high water in the Ohio River washed out a casket from an old-time abandoned cemetery. This old cemetery dated back to early pioneer days and was located about seven miles from Henderson on the banks of the river. The last record of any person being interred there was in 1854. The casket was found lodged in driftwood about fifteen miles below Henderson. The casket was floating in the water and seemed airtight. It was brought back to Henderson and turned over to an undertaking establishment.

The casket, an unusual one made mostly of metal, was opened. The remains were found to be in such perfect condition that anyone who had known the man in life could easily have identified him. After two days of tracing records, the body was determined to be that of Robert Henderson, the founder of Henderson, Kentucky, who had come down the Ohio River soon after the Revolutionary War. The body was reburied in Fernwood Cemetery on the family lot of his descendants. The original funeral had taken place back in 1814 and the body had remained undisturbed for 113 years until the flood had washed it out of its resting place.

The corpse was attired in Colonial dress which was remarkably preserved. There was a handmade linen shirt, with stock collar; a large white bow; buttons sewed on the shirt with home-spun thread; trousers of home-spun unbleached linen; gray socks on the feet; and white silk gloves on the hands. When the gloves were removed, they were found to be in near perfect condition, as well as the flesh under them. In fact, the entire body was almost perfectly preserved in full flesh.

A winding sheet had been used to wrap the body. Furthermore, the casket had a raise in the molding to take care of the feet and a hollow place in the lid to care for the head and face. A name plate was placed across the face, which was about six inches in diameter. Above this was carved the figure of an angel with outstretched wings, and five stars above that. The entire casket weighed nearly four-hundred pounds and was upholstered in satin, which like the body, showed but little signs of the ravages of time.

(Data entered by Judy Bemis)